It’s not just about her, it’s about the message that is continuously sent to Independent-thinking people in our rigid political system.
In a series of messages, Jody Wilson-Raybould announced last week that she wouldn’t be running in the next federal election, lamenting what Parliament has become:
“From my seat over the last six years, I have noticed a change in Parliament, a regression. It has become more and more toxic and ineffective while simultaneously marginalizing individuals from certain backgrounds. Federal politics is, in my view, increasingly a disgraceful triumph of harmful partisanship over substantive action. In 2015, I ran to be the MP in our newly created riding of Vancouver Granville to drive change on the critical issues facing our community and all Canadians, including Indigenous reconciliation, climate change, social and racial justice, and building an enduring economy in a rapidly shifting world. Fighting for transformative change on these matters is what I was doing before becoming your MP, when I was the Regional Chief of British Columbia. And this is what I will continue to do in our community and across the country after my time as MP ends.”
As she announced her departure, Wilson-Raybould received praise from across the political spectrum, including from many who have very differing political opinions from hers.
A portion of the praise was likely because she almost helped bring down the Trudeau government during the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and people always like those who hurt their opponents.
However, I think much of the praise was genuine, and spoke to a sense of loss at Wilson-Raybould leaving the political scene.
So why would the departure of one MP be such a big deal?
A dearth of independent thinkers
Compared to other similar countries like the United States and the UK, Canada’s political system has become uniquely authoritarian and centralized.
Consider the state of Kentucky in the US.
Both their senators are Republicans, but Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell are quite different in political outlook.
McConnell is an old school, chamber of commerce, establishment Republican, while Paul is much more of an outsider and a libertarian in outlook.
Indeed, they often disagree with each other, and speak on different sides of issues, including foreign intervention and government surveillance power.
What makes this interesting is that both of them can be considered Republicans, and there’s no central party leader that can simply ‘refuse to sign their nomination papers.’
Their power, and their ability to affiliate with their party, comes from the combination of their own free choice to identify as Republicans, and the choice of the voters on the ground to either elect them, or choose somebody else.
It’s a decentralized system, and it results in more ideological diversity even within parties.
You can see the same thing in the Democratic party, where New York Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Chuck Schumer have quite different views, yet are still in the same party.
The absence of a central authority means that voters on the ground have more of a say, and independent thinkers can flourish.
Donald Trump is another example. The Republican establishment clearly wanted to stop him, but enough voters wanted him in power so he won the nomination in 2016 and went on to win the general election that year.
In Canada, someone like him would have simply been blocked by the central party establishment authority, disenfranchising those who wanted to elect an outsider.
Many MPs clearly chafe under the rigid control of the party system. They thought they were getting into politics to speak their minds and represent their constituents, only to find that they represent their party leader and are strictly controlled from speaking out.
They work under the constant fear that their party leader will boot them out and pull their nomination papers, making it incredibly difficult to get re-elected.
Jody Wilson-Raybould was a rare example of someone who challenged their party leader, spoke truth to power, was kicked out, and then was re-elected despite the efforts of a centralized party to defeat her.
That likely sparked a sense of hope and opportunity in many MPs who are sick and tired of being relegated to the status of a submissive trained seal for ‘the leader.’
To see her end up leaving Parliament anyway will certainly demoralize many of the MPs currently in the House of Commons, as it’s a reminder that the centralized system continues to dominate.
Incentivizing submissive behaviour
Canada should want politicians who challenge each other, advocate for the rights and freedoms of Canadians, and who seek creative solutions to the challenges our country faces.
But our political system doesn’t incentivize that.
Rather, it incentivizes those who simply follow along with everything their party leader says – as we saw in how Liberal MPs went along with Trudeau instead of standing with Wilson-Raybould, and how CPC MPs meekly went along with Erin O’Toole’s carbon tax betrayal.
If MPs were liberated from their leader having power over their nomination papers, we likely would have seen far more of them speak out against those above-mentioned actions.
Unfortunately, what this means over time is that independent-minded MPs will end up leaving like Jody Wilson-Raybould has, and be replaced by more submissive individuals who lack creativity, lack independence, and are happy to simply give in to whatever their ‘leader’ tells them.
That then filters out through the entire political system, rendering our country less able to confront challenges, and reinforcing a centralized, controlling, big-government way of thinking.
We already saw the consequences of this in the pandemic, when our politicians failed to take any early action to close the borders or protect the nation, and then veered towards draconian lockdowns, while punishing anyone who spoke out against the abuse of government authority.
How to fix this?
So, how do we fix this problem?
The easiest solution is for political parties to strip their party leaders and central authorities from having the ability to remove MPs/refuse to sign nomination papers.
If an MP has the support of actual party members in their local riding, then their party leader shouldn’t be able to remove them. Our system needs to be more decentralized, and this would incentivize more independent-thinking people connected to the actual base of their party, rather than those who simply submit to the leader and the image consultants.
Independent thinking and decentralization is a key reason the economies of the Western world became so powerful, and are why intellectual freedom flourished so much in the West. We need to apply those lessons to our broken political system as well, and stop the disturbing authoritarian drift of our nation.